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German Protesters Express Their 'Defensive Nationalism'


In recent years, Germany has processed more asylum applications than any industrialized nation. And some Germans are not happy about the resulting demographic changes. In Dresden last week, 17,000 people joined a demonstration organized by patriotic Europeans against the, quote, "Islamization" of the West.

Josef Joffe is publisher of the German weekly Die Zeit. He says the protesters' anger is driven by a number of overlapping factors.

JOSEF JOFFE: They are talking about rapid technological change, which makes lots of jobs obsolete, which threatens people with downward mobility. Plus, we are talking about immigration, globalization, competition. And so, if you want to bring it down to one basic common denominator, I would call it defensive nationalism.

Stop the world. Keep this out. Keep out the markets, keep out capitalism, keep out foreigners, keep out refugees. Stop the world; I want to get off. No, stop the road and keep it beyond our borders. And that is the common European phenomenon.

WERTHEIMER: Well, how does race or maybe racism, do you think, factor into all of this? Are people responding to a certain kind of immigrant?

JOFFE: Look, the target is quite clearly Islamic immigration and the religion and the culture that comes with it. On the other hand, this is not a simple, straightforward kind of fascist phenomenon because these protesters call themselves European patriots. And they call themselves as being part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

What they do demand in their position papers and speeches is we don't want Sharia law to enter the German legal system. We don't want parallel societies. We want these people to assimilate and integrate.

If that is racism, I don't know. Definitely, there is an ethnic component here or ethno cultural component, which is quite clearly directed against Islamic refugees and immigrants. But the European can deal with Muslims in their midst, and I think they will because they have been getting use to this kind of immigration for the last 30, 40 years. And Germany looks a lot more colorful these days than it did 30 years ago.

WERTHEIMER: Josef Joffe is the editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. Thank you so much for this.

JOFFE: OK. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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